Our Gourmet: No blues about choosing bluAqua
Salzburg Square in Amherst, a shopping center known for its distinctive Austrian/Bavarian-style architectural style, is home to one of the area's newest restaurants, serving New American cuisine, or old favorites with a twist.
There's an air of elegance to the place. We liked the modern, fine dining atmosphere, but with a casual feel. The interior is decked in black and white, with white chairs offset by the black linens and flooring. And blue lighting accents and the very large salt-water aquarium in the bar give you a sense of the sea.
We were greeted right away and chose to take a seat in the dining room near the window, although the seats in the upscale bar looked just as comfortable and has a great view of the aquarium.
After a quick glance at the wine list and bluAqua's creative martini menu, we settled in. With the comfortable chairs and relaxing atmosphere, you have no choice but to do just that. We were immediately greeted at our table by the server, who from the get-go made us feel welcome but not rushed.
The menu features a variety of land and sea items. For appetizers, we went with sea. I chose the Lobster Ravioli Vin Blanc ($12), house-made ravioli stuffed with Maine lobster meat in a white wine butter sauce. I was a bit surprised when I was served just one, albeit giant, freeform ravioli. It was indeed stuffed with large chunks of succulent lobster and thankfully the sauce didn't overpower the great taste of the lobster. The only problem, if you can call it that, is it was a little difficult to eat as it kept slipping around. Let's just say it almost ended up on me at least once. Of course that could have been because I was distracted by the calamari TDC was furiously eating.
The calamari ($10) is served with a cherry pepper aioli sauce for dipping and has a few sweet red peppers mixed in as well. It's lightly covered in a golden breading and the texture is just the type that you search out if you're a fan of this dish. Both of us agree that this is calamari done right. Thankfully they gave us an impressively large portion we ended up sharing and still taking some home.
It took us a while to decide on our entrees. I could have easily chosen any number of them like the Steak Frites, Scallop Risotto or Roasted Duck Breast. Instead I went with what I thought was one of the most interesting dishes on the menu, the Burger Fondue ($15), a certified Black Angus burger with carmelized onions, smoky bacon, sharp cheddar fondue and topped with a fried egg, served with frites.
It's one of the most decadent burgers I've ever had. The flavors are big and delicious, but I only made it through half the burger because by then I was really craving something to cut through the richness; additional onions or an acidic accompaniment would have helped.
The TDC was more decisive when he chose the Pecan Crusted Chicken ($21). Just as you'd expect each chicken breast was coated in a mixture of pecan pieces and breading making for a fairly thick coating.
TDC found the pecan flavor subtle overall but intriguing enough to engage his taste buds with each bite. This dish was served with fresh pasta and vegetables including asparagus, tomatoes and spinach all tossed in a sage-brown butter sauce. The TDC commented the pasta mixture didn't pack any overwhelming tastes, but worked well with the pecan chicken.
Having made a good dent in our previous courses, I think we were as surprised as our server that we ordered dessert. Wanting something on the lighter side, I chose the Chocolate Mousse ($7), while TDC commandeered the other chocolate desert on the menu, the Chocolate Raspberry Torte ($7). Both desserts were up to par and sufficiently chocolatety, but not overly sweet. The TDC's torte was rich and moist and the mousse was light and airy.
Overall we were impressed by food, atmosphere and service and would definitely go back - perhaps in daylight: bluAqua started serving during lunch hours last month.
One thing is for sure, this is one tasty cure for any blues, winter or otherwise, that may ail you. It's worth the trip; just follow the blue lighting.
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